The Never Ending Battles of the Sioux

The protests against the Dakota Access Pipeline continued this week, with Native Americans making a stand in North Dakota, and several being arrested. Their protest stems from their dismay that the pipeline is being routed through lands that are sacred to them, and that it will destroy graves and native artifacts. Further, they are concerned with environmental issues, especially concerning water sources in the area. According to news reports, law enforcement has been using pepper spray, rubber bullets, and - incredibly - water cannons in freezing temperatures. A spokesman for the Standing Rock Sioux tribe calls this an escalation of violence that could seriously hurt someone. Reading the articles and watching the accompanying videos, I was reminded of the nearby battle of 150 years ago when the forefathers of these same Sioux stood against the United States government.

While the 1860s are more commonly associated with U.S. troops in the Confederate States, federal troops were also out west, subduing the native tribes in an effort to clear land for white settlers and keeping open trade routes. Undoubtedly, the Indians were not equipped to fight the U.S. troops. 

The largest expedition ever carried out against the Indians was the one in which Brigadier General Alfred Sully led U.S. Army troops against the Sioux in July 1864. This expedition included 4,000 troopers - well-armed with repeating rifles, pistols, and cannons - marching against warriors armed primarily with bow and arrow. Worse for the Indians, their group also included women and children. As you'd expect, things went terribly for the natives, and they were overrun and chased from their land at the Battle of Killdeer Mountain. With a terrible touch of vengeance the U.S. troops destroyed tipis and jerky needed for the winter, and then killed thousands of dogs. Worse, they allowed the killing of Sioux children by a rival tribe.

A couple years ago I took the opportunity to visit that battleground, which is as distant and remote as it is sad. From Bismarck it's about a two and a half hour drive to the northwest, and is situated among oil fields and farmland. The actual battle was a push toward Killdeer Mountain, with the Sioux abandoning the fight, and escaping to the badlands. My video is raw, but does give you an idea of the terrain, and of the hopelessness that they must have felt as they ran. Today there's an acre plot of land that officially recognizes the battlefield, a gift to North Dakota from a local farmer in the 1930s. That plot includes the graves of two soldiers killed during the battle. 

One of the saddest things regarding this expedition is that the U.S. Army was chasing and killing Sioux who had done nothing to them. They were after the wrong people. I'm not informed well enough to make a decision as to who's right in the pipeline fight that's happening today, but I admit that I hope some consideration will be given before this type of response to the Sioux continues to escalate. They deserve that much.

No comments